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The Future of Tax & Legal – Embracing Change with Confidence

Businessperson Calculating Invoice

Tax and legal professionals today face increasing complexity, risk, and ambiguity as technology, regulatory and business transformation converge. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the change and the infinite number of strategic options. But embracing this change is manageable with the right tools and the right partner.

Deloitte is helping clients navigate this increasingly complex, digital world by leveraging the combined strength of our technology capabilities from our Consulting and Tax & Legal practices, and by placing a continued emphasis on technology investment and skills development to prepare talent to meet the evolving needs of the business.

Harnessing Technology to Adapt to Change

Businesses in all sectors and regions are experiencing the opportunities and challenges that come with the immense changes of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Even the most traditional business areas, such as tax and legal, are not immune. Technologies are disrupting business as we know it and in response, global tax and legal systems must transform and adapt to keep pace with these new business concepts and models. And organizations need to invest in their tax and legal departments to ensure they can operate confidently and effectively while minimizing risk.

Tax departments are tasked with executing flawlessly at a fundamental level: Ensure compliance, know the regulations and their implications, be precise, account for all the data, stay ahead of risk, and predict outcomes. And they are asked to do it all in an environment of exponential increases in data, added responsibility within the business, and new mandates from regulators.

As a result, tax professionals are moving to automate and apply analytics to help account for more data and to achieve greater precision. Technologies such as robotic process automation (RPA), natural language processing (NLP) and artificial intelligence (AI) give tax professionals the ability to work with all the information available in massive data sets.

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To not only see what has happened, but to more confidently predict what will happen. To be insightful and focus on implications and outcomes rather than being consumed by ensuring the accuracy of the numbers and on-time filing. And to do all this while meeting the increased transparency demands of regulators – who themselves are likely to use robotics and AI to collect and analyze companies’ tax data.

Likewise, technology has become a critical tool to help legal departments support rapidly evolving demands from the business and manage regulatory change.

Using Deloitte Tax and Legal professionals as an example, when the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”) came into force in 2018 along with the UK Data Protection Act, Deloitte UK’s Tax group engaged Deloitte Legal to assess the scope, and remediate where necessary, approximately 45,000 engagement contracts.

In the past this would have required a very lengthy manual assessment which would have been inefficient and prone to error as contract negotiations are typically buried in emails and hard to track. Instead Deloitte exercised a combined approach using dTrax, a proprietary artificial intelligence-enabled contract lifecycle management technology, with the support of skilled Deloitte Legal resources to simplify, automate, and streamline the contracting process.

The tool allowed Deloitte Tax client relationship owners to provide details about their engagements, which were then assessed by dTrax to determine whether the corresponding engagement contract required remediation. Where remediation was required, dTrax automatically generated a letter varying the Data Protection clause, which was sent directly to the client.

If negotiation of the Data Protection clause wording was required, Deloitte Legal resources were able to negotiate by reference to playbooks built into dTrax. This approach drove consistency while keeping contract negotiations managed and recorded within a single platform.

By combining technology with skilled resources, Deloitte UK’s Tax team was able to alter the business model, allowing for up to a 50 percent reduction in the number of required legal resources, a 40 percent reduction in the delivery turnaround time per variation letter, and an up to 60 percent reduction in the overall costs. Ultimately, the team gained greater visibility and insights into their contract terms and conditions, which increased their overall compliance and reduced risk.

Fueling Talent with Technology

While digital transformation is a tech-enabled shift, it requires a collaborative effort to change mindsets and embrace and advance transformation. A successful digital transformation demands a cultural change with a focus on continuous learning and embedding technology into the way we work.

Tax professionals have traditionally been tied up with compliance and the technical side of tax. Yet in this digital age, a robot can now do the data checking and digital tools can classify line items. So, today’s, and tomorrow’s, tax professional needs to understand the processes behind tax, be able to code, interpret data and make decisions. They have the opportunity to provide far more valuable and strategic input to their organizations, but they must be more adaptable to work with technology to enhance and reinforce their advice.

From the legal perspective, lawyers will need to have a broader range of skills to be ready for the legal landscape of tomorrow. Tomorrow’s digital lawyers will need to think and operate in a different way and they will need significant management, business strategy, technology and consulting capabilities to be able to deliver real value to clients. Adoption of the right tools, such as AI and data analytics, will enable legal teams to maximize efficiencies across multiple functions, standardize and adopt best practices, and help gather insights to support better decision making for the business.

Inspiring Confidence Today and Into Tomorrow with Technology

Deloitte has invested heavily in technology and we are accelerating our efforts in order to help both our own professionals and clients stay ahead. With more than 200 technology solutions in place, including robotics, AI, and machine learning capabilities, Deloitte Tax & Legal is helping clients manage compliance, bridge gaps between countries’ accounting principles, and manage research and development incentives claims. As we navigate the Fourth Industrial Revolution, having a tech-savvy foundation in our people and our processes will help set ourselves and our clients up for success and ensure our ability to work confidently now and far into the future.

Based in London, Philip Mills is the Global Tax & Legal leader at Deloitte. Prior to this, he led the Global Business Tax practice for two years and the UK Business Tax practice for seven years, amongst other roles. Philip also leads the Global Tax & Legal Executive and is a member of the Global Executive Committee. He has a Physics Bachelor of Science degree from Liverpool University, is a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales and is a member of the Institute of Tax.

For nearly 20 years, Philip focused on M&A tax, particularly on Private Equity, Real Estate and Hedge Funds. He has worked on some of the more significant, large and complex European transactions in recent years as well as supporting the Fund advisers. Most recently, he took on advisory roles to some of Deloitte’s largest multinational corporate clients.

Source: The Future of Tax & Legal – Embracing Change with Confidence

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IRS Announces New Per Diem Rates For Taxpayers Who Travel For Business

Are you wondering about those updated per diem rates? The new per-diem numbers are now out, effective October 1, 2019. These numbers are to be used for per-diem allowances paid to any employee on or after October 1, 2019, for travel away from home. The new rates include those for the transportation industry; the rate for the incidental expenses; and the rates and list of high-cost localities for purposes of the high-low substantiation method.

I know, that sounds complicated. But it’s intended to keep things simple. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) allows the use of per diem (that’s Latin meaning “for each day” – remember, lawyers love Latin) rates to make reimbursements easier for employers and employees. Per diem rates are a fixed amount paid to employees to compensate for lodging, meals, and incidental expenses incurred when traveling on business rather than using actual expenses.

Here’s how it typically works: A per diem rate can be used by an employer to reimburse employees for combined lodging and meal costs, or meal costs alone. Per diem payments are not considered part of the employee’s wages for tax purposes so long as the payments are equal to, or less than the federal per diem rate, and the employee provides an expense report. If the employee doesn’t provide a complete expense report, the payments will be taxable to the employee. Similarly, any payments which are more than the per diem rate will also be taxable.

Today In: Money

The reimbursement piece is essential. Remember that for the 2019 tax year, unreimbursed job expenses are not deductible. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) eliminated unreimbursed job expenses and miscellaneous itemized deductions subject to the 2% floor for the tax years 2018 through 2025. Those expenses include unreimbursed travel and mileage.

That also means that the business standard mileage rate (you’ll find the 2019 rate here) cannot be used to deduct unreimbursed employee travel expenses for the 2018 through 2025 tax years. The IRS has clarified, however, that members of a reserve component of the Armed Forces of the United States, state or local government officials paid on a fee basis, and certain performing artists may still deduct unreimbursed employee travel expenses as an adjustment to income on the front page of the 1040; in other words, those folks can continue to use the business standard mileage rate. For details, you can check out Notice 2018-42 (downloads as a PDF).

What about self-employed taxpayers? The good news is that they can still deduct business-related expenses. However, the per diem rates aren’t as useful for self-employed taxpayers because they can only use the per diem rates for meal costs. Realistically, that means that self-employed taxpayers must continue to keep excellent records and use exact numbers.

As of October 1, 2019, the special meals and incidental expenses (M&IE) per diem rates for taxpayers in the transportation industry are $66 for any locality of travel in the continental United States and $71 for any locality of travel outside the continental United States; those rates are slightly more than they were last year. The per diem rate for meals & incidental expenses (M&IE) includes all meals, room service, laundry, dry cleaning, and pressing of clothing, and fees and tips for persons who provide services, such as food servers and luggage handlers.

The rate for incidental expenses only is $5 per day, no matter the location. Incidental expenses include fees and tips paid at lodging, including porters and hotel staff. It’s worth noting that transportation between where you sleep or work and where you eat, as well as the mailing cost of filing travel vouchers and paying employer-sponsored charge card billings, are no longer included in incidental expenses. If you want to snag a break for those, and you use the per diem rates, you may request that your employer reimburse you.

That’s good advice across the board: If you previously deducted those unreimbursed job expenses and can no longer do so under the TCJA, ask your employer about potential reimbursements. Companies might not have considered the need for specific reimbursement policies before the new tax law, but would likely not want to lose a good employee over a few dollars – especially when those dollars are important to the employee.

Of course, since the cost of travel can vary depending on where – and when – you’re going, there are special rates for certain destinations. For purposes of the high-low substantiation method, the per diem rates are $297 for travel to any high-cost locality and $200 for travel to any other locality within the continental United States. The meals & incidental expenses only per diem for travel to those destinations is $71 for travel to a high-cost locality and $60 for travel to any other locality within the continental United States.

You can find the list of high-cost localities for all or part of the calendar year – including the applicable rates – in the most recent IRS notice. As you can imagine, high cost of living areas like San Francisco, Boston, New York City, and the District of Columbia continue to make the list. There are, however, a few noteworthy changes, including:

  • The following localities have been added to the list of high-cost localities: Mill Valley/San Rafael/Novato, California; Crested Butte/Gunnison, Colorado; Petoskey, Michigan; Big Sky/West Yellowstone/Gardiner, Montana; Carlsbad, New Mexico; Nashville, Tennessee; and Midland/Odessa, Texas.
  • The following localities have been removed from the list of high-cost localities: Los Angeles, California; San Diego, California; Duluth, Minnesota; Moab, Utah; and Virginia Beach, Virginia.
  • The following localities have changed the portion of the year in which they are high-cost localities (meaning that seasonal rates apply): Napa, California; Santa Barbara, California; Denver, Colorado; Vail, Colorado; Washington D.C., District of Columbia; Key West, Florida; Jekyll Island/Brunswick, Georgia; New York City, New York; Portland, Oregon; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Pecos, Texas; Vancouver, Washington; and Jackson/Pinedale, Wyoming.

You can find the entire high-cost localities list, together with other per diem information, in Notice 2019-55 (downloads as a PDF). To find the federal government per diem rates by locality name or zip code, head over to the General Services Administration (GSA) website.

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Years ago, I found myself sitting in law school in Moot Court wearing an oversized itchy blue suit. It was a horrible experience. In a desperate attempt to avoid anything like that in the future, I enrolled in a tax course. I loved it. I signed up for another. Before I knew it, in addition to my JD, I earned an LL.M Taxation. While at law school, I interned at the estates attorney division of the IRS. At IRS, I participated in the review and audit of federal estate tax returns. At one such audit, opposing counsel read my report, looked at his file and said, “Gentlemen, she’s exactly right.” I nearly fainted. It was a short jump from there to practicing, teaching, writing and breathing tax. Just like that, Taxgirl® was born.

Source: IRS Announces New Per Diem Rates For Taxpayers Who Travel For Business

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Per Diem is one of the largest tax deductions available to owner-operator truck drivers. Effective October 1, 2018, the daily rate was increased. In this video, we discuss Per Diem and how it will affect owner-operators.

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